Considering that at one point, it looked very unlikely that I would have a winter garden at all, it is incredible that I am posting about even further developments. Once the wwoofers and I had cleared up all of the mess leftover from summer (we still have a bit more to go), there was no stopping me from planting all my favourite winter veggies!
The willow tree garden
We have another garden bed on the border with our neighbour on Isola Street. This garden bed is overshadowed by an enormous willow tree on the neighbour’s property. The tree’s roots run underneath this garden bed, probably depleting a lot of the soil’s nutrients from the plants put into this garden. For these reasons, this part of the garden has therefore been a bit problematic. As an enthusiastic gardener, I want to try and make use of this space but am a bit restricted in terms of what I can grow due to the fact that the area receives only partial sun. There are some plants that do well in part sun, part shade, such as leafy green crops. I have grown celery, leeks and kale in this area successfully in previous years.
This year, I have decided to try my luck growing broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and green cabbage in this space, as well as some kale, celery, leeks and spring onions. I’m reasonably confident that the latter will do well, but unsure of how the others will perform. Gardening is all about experimenting and having a bit of fun once you’ve mastered the fundamentals such as how to grow and care for different veggies. I will report back later in this season with an update as to how these plants are faring.
I planted kale, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, green cabbage and celery in this area today. Tomorrow, I’ll ask the two woofers staying with us at the moment, a young French couple called Ivan and Bérangère, to help with planting the leeks and spring onion seedlings (which I raised from seed).
Organising my seed collection
A big part of preparing for the summer garden was sorting out my seed collection. Normally, by mid-summer, my seed collection is an absolute mess. There are partially filled packets of seeds EVERYWHERE in the house! I started by collating all of my seeds and entering them into a catalogue I made from an Excel spreadsheet. I then filed each packet of seed in my organiser. My seed organiser in fact consists of three files that contain “envelopes” inside. Each envelope has a label, for example, “broccoli”, “cauliflower” and so on. I filed all of the packets in the relevant envelope. There are many ways that you can store seeds, but I find that this works for me. I wish I could say I thought of it myself, but a lady in the New Zealand Vege Gardeners group on Facebook told me that this is the way she stores her seeds, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s also important to keep them in a cool, dry place. I normally keep them in our living room.
Preparing the summer garden!
While I may have been behind with the winter garden, I’m extra early in preparing for the summer garden. As I have said about, a lot of fun associated with gardening for me comes from experimenting. It’s a bit of trial and error to discover what grows best where and also what to sow when. Every year, I start sowing my summer veggies such as capsicums, eggplants, tomatoes and chillies towards the end of August. They germinate and grow successfully, but by Labour Weekend when I go to plant them, they are tiny compared with the size of seedlings in garden centres. I almost always invariably end up buying a few bigger plants in order to have a head start on the season.
This year, I’m determined to get a head start on my summer garden – with my own plants. I decided to conduct a little growing trial and start sowing some seeds every month from April onwards, in order to work out when is the best time to sow seeds for the summer garden. This morning, I sowed a range of capsicums, chillies, eggplants and tomatoes in propagators which I placed on my two heat pads. Once these seedlings grow big enough, I’ll take them off and nurture them in the propagators for awhile (not on the heat pads). Once they’re big enough, I’ll then finally put them inside my Sistema plastic crates which function as a mini hot house to keep the plants insulated during the winter period. Instead of cramming lots of crates inside the house as I did last year, I’ll be keeping crates inside our spa pool room. We don’t use the spa pool anymore. Now that the roof has been fixed and nailed down properly, this room will act as a nice greenhouse for raising my seedlings for spring and summer.
Yesterday afternoon, Ivan and Bérangère helped me by clearing all the weeds that had been growing around our “Unique” Feijoa tree. They also weeded around our lemon tree and removed weeds from the pots of the fruit trees in our mini orchard.
While they were doing those tasks, I planted some tamarillo seedlings I raised from seed in several areas of the garden. Last year, I had purchased four tamarillo plants which I had gotten on special from Bunnings and planted them in pots in our mini orchard. All of them died. I decided to give tamarillos another go, this time raising them from seed. They’re frost tender, so it’s hard to get them through the winter. To help the process, mum helpfully cut the bottom off some 2 litre plastic milk bottles to function as a cloche over the plant during the winter period. I will report back if my plants manage to survive the winter.
Today, Ivan spent some time removing three dead passionfruit plants at the back of our house and fixing the trellis which had fallen from the fence. Tomorrow, we will plant some passionfruit that I raised from seed last spring. The plants are very healthy and are waiting in my nursery, ready to be planted!
Tomorrow, I’ll get Ivan and Bérangère to sow some “Easy Peasy” peas from Egmont Seeds against the back trellis which Ivan fixed for me today. Traditionally, peas sown in spring but you can get a head start by sowing them in autumn. They grow slowly over winter but mid-spring, you can be harvesting your own fresh peas from the garden! I’ve found that peas sown in autumn actually grow better than ones sown in spring, which inevitably end up succumbing to humidity as temperatures increase, leaving them susceptible to powdery mildew, which isn’t very nice. It also helps with germination if you soak pea seeds overnight as they have a hard coat, so I've popped them into a bowl with some water before going to bed tonight.